Published: Thursday, March 20, 2008
Decay of Installation.
Under Grass at Opening.
Words from the architect
The project was a temporary exhibit at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI_Arc) installed in the schools gallery for an eight week period between December 12, 2003 and February 6, 2004.
The ubiquitous lawn was the subject of this heuristic exercise about our cultural relationship to that thin plane of suburban carpet. The installation included the suspension of over 1, 000 square feet of grass sod in the exhibition space exploring the tectonic nature of this plane by emphasizing its tissue-like thinness, flexibility, and texture, while commenting on its negative impacts on our larger environment.
The decision to work with sod allowed us to examine the relationship between the organic (living) and the manufactured (processed.) This dichotomy relates to our continued exploration with hybrid dialogues. Our research into this ubiquitous material furthered an understanding of the material as a manufactured product in its shaved thin plates, that are grown and scraped off the earth, cut into standardized modules, and delivered to their respective destinations. Yet it also is an organic, changing, living organism, one which also has serious environmental implications.
There is a an irony in the decision to place sod in an interior space, as well as in the location of SCI-Arc, in an industrial urban area of Los Angeles. By placing the sod in a quite unnatural state (suspended) we emphasized its inherent physicality as a manufactured plane and as the sod slowly decayed and changed over the duration of the exhibition we also called attention to the actual maintenance required of such a material. The slow decay then serves to remind us of our precarious relationship to landscape, and in this case the very obvious need that this specific material has to water. Statistical information placed on the walls critiqued the pervasive use of grass in our desert environment, while a long strip of light placed against the wall at three and half feet above the floor recorded the volume of water needed for one year's worth of maintenance.
Pools of water on the gallery floor reflected light that pierced through the perforations in the sod above. The separation of the water and sod created an ironic tension and further emphasized the entropic nature of the installation. The sod decayed over the course of the exhibit revealing more light as it shrank, while the odor of the sod permeated the gallery and the school giving the exhibit a changing presence beyond its spatial condition. The space of the gallery existed as a metaphorical space between the sod above and the water below where reflections of roots, viewers, and refracted light created a continuously changing environment.
The large hovering plane of hydroponic grass engulfed the gallery and undulated creating a series of varying spatial conditions. Suspended from the ceiling, it created a spatial dialogue between above and below in such a way that the viewer was never allowed to completely see the entire grass plane from the gallery level. Like a Japanese rock garden, where one can never see all of the rocks at once, the form allowed glimpses of sod as it undulated from side to side. This engaged the viewer with the space, as well as encouraged the discovery of the balcony above enticing movement out of the gallery on to the balcony. It is only from the balcony that one could view the plane in its totality and see the full extant of the hovering plane. The undulating plane lowered at the entrance below the mezzanine, creating a kind of tongue that reached out to the viewer. As the undulations moved to the rear of the gallery, a larger volume was created and defined by the underside of the roots and structure supporting it, a kind of vaulted continuum which lead to an extreme dip or valley where the plane barely hovered six inches from the floor. At the furthest end of the gallery, the sod was left off and the structure of one beam exposed, allowing an unobstructed view of the support system.
Underside of installation.
The structural condition of the project was defined by an interest in a minimal approach to the demands of gravity to further the illusion of the plane as a hovering or floating piece. The entire structure was hung from steel cables attached to the ceiling of the gallery, without any support from the floor. Two parallel 12" deep plywood beams, shaped on a CNC machine, created the primary support for seventy 1" pipes placed a foot apart. The pipes cantilevered to the edges, allowing the thinness of the plane to be emphasized. The attachment of the pipes to the plywood beams was purposely separated to create the appearance of the plywood floating slightly below the underside of the sod. A stitching of smaller cables and turnbuckles provided lateral support to the beams.
Line drawing - Suppports.
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